16 Old-School Internet Acronyms: How Many Can You Recognize?

istock/ rebecca o'connell
istock/ rebecca o'connell

How is language evolving on the Internet? In this series on internet linguistics, Gretchen McCulloch breaks down the latest innovations in online communication.

I recently re-read Wired Style, the classic Web usage manual from the late '90s. At the time, it was cutting edge, but it now has a whole lot of words that we don't use anymore. Here are the top 15 of Wired Style's now-outdated acronyms from the early days of the 'Net—how many did you recognize?

1. CHA

No one said early "websters" were always polite. CHA stands for "click here a**hole." And in the '90s, that click might have been on a "hotlink" or "hotspot."

2. AND 3. IOW AND OTOH

"On the other hand," Netiquette was still a pressing issue. "In other words," some people were still remembering to offer their "gigathanks."

4. F2F

People still say IRL, another entry in Wired Style, but we've stopped talking about f2f for "face to face," let alone its synonym, "facemail."

5. LAT

We haven't stopped saying "lovely and talented," but somehow the acronym hasn't stuck around.

6. POTS

Wired Style does also contain an entry for the still-current "landline," but we no longer talk about POTS, short for "plain old telephone service."

7. QOS

If you don't have good "quality of service," you might run into trouble promising "I'll zap you the JPEGs but the message file will be 900K."

8. S!MT!!OE!!!

Complete with gradually escalating exclamation marks, this acronym stands for "Sets! My teeth!! On edge!!!"

9. SCSI

Pronounced "scuzzy," this acronym stands for small computer system interface—the type of port that we used before USB ports.

10. TEOTWAWKI

This ungainly acronym stands for "the end of the world as we know it." In another blast from the past, Wired Style notes that it's "the shorthand of Internet survivalists who believe Y2K spells doomsday."

11. TMOT

"Trust me on this," if you want to maintain your membership in the "digerati."  

12. TTYTT

It almost looks like a modern kaomoji, but this pleasingly symmetrical acronym actually stands for "to tell you the truth."

13. WADR

"With all due respect," no one talks about "meatspace" anymore either.

14. WTFIGO

Oddly, Wired Style contains an entry for "what the f*** is going on?" but no entry for plain WTF.

15. YA

No, it hasn't always stood for Young Adult literature. This acronym used to stand for "yet another": the helpful example sentence that Wired Style provides is "Microsoft released YA browser upgrade."

16. YOYOW

True, perhaps, "you own your own words" (or YOYW, "you own your words"), but thank goodness we're past the days of "cyber-" everything.

Finally, it's almost as interesting to see which now-common internet acronyms Wired Style doesn't include—LOL and ROTFL are present, neither WTF nor OMG get entries.

Find Your Birthday Word With the Oxford English Dictionary's Birthday Word Generator

iStock/photoman
iStock/photoman

Language is always changing and new words are always being formed. That means there are a bunch of words that were born the same year you were. The Oxford English Dictionary has created the OED birthday word generator, where you can find a word that began around the same time you did.

Click on your birth year to see a word that was first documented that year, and then click through to see what that first citation was. Then explore a little and be surprised by words that are older than you expect (frenemy, 1953), and watch cultural changes emerge as words are born (radio star, 1924; megastar, 1969; air guitar, 1983).

Does your birthday word capture your era? Does it fit your personality? Perhaps birthday words could become the basis for a new kind of horoscope.

This story has been updated for 2019.

What Are The Most Popular Baby Names In Your State? An Interactive Tool Will Tell You

iStock/PeopleImages
iStock/PeopleImages

Baby names can be just as in vogue, as unpopular, and occasionally as controversial as any fashion trend. If you were ever curious to see which names were the most popular in your home state, now you can.

The Social Security Administration has an interactive tool on its website that allows users to see the top 100 names that made it onto birth certificates by both birth year and state. There’s also an option for seeing what the top five names were by year, plus links to the most popular baby names by territory and decade as well as background info that explains the data itself.

Maine, for example, saw a high number of Olivers and Charlottes born in 2018 while Brysons and Viviennes rolled in last. If one were to turn the Census clock back to 1960 (the earliest year the tool can take you to), they would find that Pine Tree State folks were most partial to the names David and Susan. The names at the bottom for that year? Darryl and Lynne.

Baby names can offer telling insight into an era—they often reflect significant cultural happenings of the time. In 2009, for example, it was reported that there was a significant increase in Twilight-related names like Bella, Cullen, Jasper, Alice, and Emmett, whereas 2019 saw a spike in children’s names more appropriately found in Westeros, with Arya and Khaleesi topping the list (though one mom came to regret naming her daughter the latter).

Each of the names on the website were taken from Social Security applications. There are certain credentials by which names are listed, including the name being at least two characters long. Although it is not provided by the tool, records kept by the administration list the most popular names as far back as the 1880s.

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